Roundabout in Fayetteville a Sign of Growing Intersection Modernization in America

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By Clint Wray
Lemke Newsroom

Traditional transportation infrastructure designs are less expensive and quicker to
complete than those based on engineering innovations, but the real cost ultimately gets
passed on to drivers in the form of wasted energy and time.

Stop-and-go traffic, because of outmoded intersection designs, wastes fuel and time.
Without progressive efforts, engineers, economists and environmentalists are concerned
that continuing traditional, quickly overwhelmed designs will penalize the U.S.

In a study by the Rockefeller Foundation, 79 percent of people surveyed agreed, “In
order for the United States to remain the world’s top economic superpower, we need to
modernize our transportation infrastructure and keep it up to date.”

Another study by the Building America’s Future educational fund, determined that
almost 19 out of 20 Americans are concerned about America’s infrastructure and 84
percent support greater investment to address infrastructure problems.

Drivers in Fayetteville can experience intersection modernization in a roundabout — the
city’s first — located on Futrall Drive near Washington Regional Medical Center. The
roundabout opened with some confusion, said Fayetteville police, who supervised traffic
flow and stopped some drivers who attempted to turn left.

“Our consultant that we had on board doing the design for this presented that as a
solution,” city engineer Chris Brown said. “They did a traffic model, they showed how
it would work and because it was something new, a new type of intersection here in
Fayetteville, the council agreed to give it a try.”

A model that projects traffic 30 years from now, was used in the roundabout design,
Brown said.

“They (roundabouts) function better than four-way stops. For certain they are much more
efficient; they are about as efficient as a signal, sometimes more efficient depending on
the type of traffic you have. And they’re safer than either of those types of intersections,”
Brown said. “The safety and efficiency is something that definitely everybody’s
interested in.”

Transportation for America promotes progressive transportation and land use and has
coalition partners who include local and national people and organizations.

“Roadway designs that are proven to reduce death and injury, such as inclusion of
sidewalks, pedestrian medians, traffic calming, road diets, and roundabouts, should be
embraced,” according to Transportation for America.

“The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) recently estimated that Americans in 439 urban
areas spent some 4.8 billion hours sitting in traffic in 2010, equivalent to nearly one full
work week for the average commuter. TTI’s calculations suggest that congestion caused
Americans to purchase an extra 1.9 billion gallons of fuel, costing over $100 billion in
wasted time and added fuel costs in the 439 urban areas it surveyed,” the Department of
the Treasury said in a report released in March.

Northwest Arkansas officials have looked at driving times during peak and off-peak
hours, Brown said “and then they were able to attach some cost to that.”

Traffic light technology has advanced to deal with idle time and save fuel and time.

“In the past, none of them were connected they were all kind of stand-alone, they had a
simple timer in there that every 30 seconds or whatever it would change the lights from
green to red,” Brown said. “Now they’re much more interactive and they can respond to
the traffic.”

Fayetteville development can be followed in infrastructure projects that were based on
studies and approaches at the time, the outcome of which can now be seen.

The intersection at Joyce Boulevard and College Avenue has been widened to the
breaking point.

“It’s really beyond capacity,” Brown said. “We’ve squeezed out every ounce of green
time on each leg.”

The scheduled Highway 71B flyover bridge will address congestion at that intersection.

“It’s eminent, it will begin probably in January,” Brown said. “We’ve got the funding, all
the approvals are there, we got bids, we got the contractors, its really now just a matter of
getting it constructed.”

Some people do not prefer to use an automobile as their main mode of transportation and
engineers must take into account all modes of transportation.

“Thus we have our present 10-lane — or is it 12 now; I’ve lost count — inhumane
monstrosity that is a virtual anthem to the supremacy of the car in America,” Art Hobson,
UofA professor emeritus, wrote in a NWA Times article about the intersection at Joyce
Boulevard and College Avenue.

Deciding to move closer to work can significantly decrease or almost eliminate
transportation cost if a person can ride transit, a bicycle or walk, but the infrastructure has
to be there.

“We’re considering transit when we look at trying to project traffic,” Brown said.

“They (Ozark Regional Transit) got a grant for some sidewalk improvements, so we
constructed sidewalks starting at their bus stops and going out from there to help folks

get to the bus stops because that is one of the problems that we have,” Brown said. “For
folks who need ride the bus they got to get to the bus stop and to get there we need better
pedestrian access.”